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Second fiddle works fine

History shows the Colts win when the pressure's off. They will leave the hype to the Patriots.

INDIANAPOLIS - The Indianapolis Colts embrace their new role as the NFL's forgotten team.

With everybody else debating whether New England is the greatest team in league history, the Colts have remained virtually silent. When the "experts" discuss perfection and records and seemingly hand New England this year's Super Bowl crown, the Colts simply smile.

They prefer it this way.

Instead of thriving on controversy and pressure, as the Patriots do, the record shows Indy performs better when branded a second-class contender.

Its record-chasing quest in 2004 and pursuit of perfection in 2005 ended the same way: with mid-January trips home. Last year, when the glare shifted away from the Colts, they finally won their elusive Super Bowl title.

So from the moment Indianapolis officially became overshadowed, on that April day New England traded for Randy Moss, the Colts accepted their position as underdog.

This season's resume shows that Indy might be the only team standing in the way of history:

The Colts (13-2) have won six consecutive games despite being decimated by injuries and may be on the verge of getting most of their starters back.

Indianapolis is seven points from being undefeated itself, inexplicably blowing a 10-point lead in the final 10 minutes to New England that cost it home-field advantage in the AFC, then missing a potential winning field goal in the final 90 seconds at San Diego.

Indy is the first team in league history to win 12 games in five consecutive years, and is 5-0 in the NFL's best division, one that could produce three playoff teams and no team with a record worse than .500.

With a win Sunday night against Tennessee (9-6), Indianapolis would become just the third Super Bowl champion since 1991 to win 14 games in defense of its title. The other two, the 1998 Denver Broncos and 2004 Patriots, happen to be the last two back-to-back champions.

The offense has overcome Marvin Harrison's 10-game absence, a late-season swoon in the ground game, and a fluctuating offensive line. Now that quarterback Peyton Manning is getting comfortable with his new colleagues, he is playing like his old self.